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Monday, June 24, 2019

Football

XFL CEO talks about rule changes and how team will work with UH


XFL CEO and Commissioner Oliver Luck came to speak to a class of students before giving an exclusive interview with The Cougar. | Corbin Ayres/The Cougar

The XFL announced Dec. 5 that the University’s TDECU Stadium would host the league’s Houston franchise, and The Cougar was able to gain an exclusive interview with XFL CEO and Commissioner Oliver Luck.

The league has had to shake off some of its image from 2001, when its gimmicky image with over-the-top characters but poor football quality helped lead to its downfall.

Luck spoke about the new image of the league, rule changes and how the team ended up with TDECU Stadium as its home.

Identity

One of the big things Luck spoke about was giving the XFL a unique image that could stand out. Luck’s goal is to have a fast, uptempo style of play.

With the Alliance of American Football starting Saturday, with games on CBS and the NFL Network, Luck said he doesn’t worry too much about what other leagues are doing and instead focuses on making his league’s product better.

The XFL is focused on acquiring its own TV deal but does find streaming to be an important component to the plan.

“I think we have to remember who we are and who we are not,” Luck said. “We think it is important to have streaming available, but we are really focused on traditional television, because we think that is where people will say, ‘Oh, I was walking down the street, I popped into a bar and that was a pretty good game. That XFL is not bad.'”

To attract fans and find an image, the league is planning on reducing the amount of television timeouts, possibly adjusting coach timeouts to something similar to the 30-second timeout in basketball, shortening the play clock to 25 or 30 seconds and keeping a running clock.

One big change Luck did reveal was that the XFL is planning to have a referee in the television truck that can review every single play and penalties.

Luck cited the recent missed call in the NFC Championship game as an example of an egregious missed call that he thinks the XFL can solve by giving a referee all the camera angles that TV crews have and the power to stop the game to review things.

To help with safety concerns, Luck said the league is looking at changes to kickoff and punt returns as well as other play testing that is still ongoing.

As far as each team’s identity, Luck said in the next few months that all the coaches, team names and colors will be revealed, many by mid-March. While he could not reveal any official colors, Luck said he was partial to Columbia blue for the Houston franchise, which is what the Oilers wore during the team’s stay in Houston.

UH’s role

As a member of the Houston Dynamo’s first few years, Luck was familiar with the old Robertson Stadium and all its issues.

When the XFL started looking for a home in Houston, Luck said UH was very receptive to welcoming the burgeoning franchise.

“It’s a great stadium. It’s perfect for us. It’s just the right size,” Luck said. “NRG is probably too big. BBVA Compass is nice as well. But in the sports business, we hope that the team really catches fire, plays well. There is beautiful weather, and there are 35,000 fans that want to go. The Dynamo stadium (can’t handle that).”

Luck said while the average game might fit in BBVA Compass Stadium, the league hopes that for big games the demand will be too high, so TDECU is a better fit.

Of course, balancing a professional team and college team in the same training facilities could be an issue, but Luck is confident the two sides can organize everything cleanly, whether it be the XFL team works out in the morning and the Cougars work out in the afternoon or however things need to be decided.

Luck said he plans to do what UH football already does, which includes working with the Alumni Association and finding ways to give students discounts.

But bringing in a city-wide fanbase is key for the team, not just students.

The XFL is scheduled to have its opening weekend the week after 2020’s Super Bowl, and the league still has a lot to announce before then.

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